Return to Transcripts main page


Presidential Politics; Consumer Electronics Show; New Gun Control Measures; Flood of Political Ads Hit TVs In Iowa, New Hampshire; Sanders Hits Wall Street "Greed, Fraud, Dishonesty" in Speech. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired January 5, 2016 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Twenty-seven days until Iowa, and it is getting ugly out there.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Republican candidates throwing shade in every direction, as they swing through New Hampshire and Iowa, and establishment rivals are going for blood.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.


TAPPER: President Obama tearing up at the White House today as he thinks about the Sandy Hook massacre and announces some new gun control measures, moves that he will make without Congress, but will they prevent another Newtown or another child's death on the streets of Chicago?

Plus, tech toys, from virtual reality to the mirror, mirror on the wall that can predict your zits, the highlights from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Hello, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We are going to start with our politics lead. And if you are currently in an early primary or caucus state, you certainly don't need the likes of me to tell you that we're in the heat of election season with 27 days before the first votes are cast in Iowa. This is it. This is crunch time, so the candidates are all out there trying to get their messages to the public and go after each other.

We have got CNN reporters fanned out across the early voting states tracking the candidates as they step up their campaigning and their attacks.

We're going to go first to CNN political reporter Sara Murray for the latest in the Republican race. She's in Claremont, New Hampshire. Sara, it's astounding to me how much these candidates are attacking

one another, but not going after the front-runner, Donald Trump.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The time for playing nice is over, but apparently these rules do not apply to Donald Trump. We saw a much more demure Trump on the campaign trail yesterday than we have seen in a while. And other candidates are largely sparing him from their attacks too.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't care whether your name is Barack Obama, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. You have never won a thing of consequence in your life.

MURRAY (voice-over): Months of raising money, honing policy positions and polishing stump speeches coming down to this, the last few weeks before voters hit the polls. And now the knives are out on the stump and on the airwaves, Chris Christie bashing his GOP rivals who hail from the Senate.

CHRISTIE: You go into the legislature. They schedule when you're supposed to be there. They tell you where to sit and then they say yes or no, say yes or no. Governor -- Senator Rubio can't even seem to get that done.

MURRAY: While Marco Rubio tries to turn one of his potential weaknesses in a GOP primary, immigration, into a shot at Ted Cruz.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He supported our massive expansion of temporary workers, guest workers coming into the United States. He supports a massive doubling of the number of green cards, so his record on immigration in the past is a little bit different than what it is now.

MURRAY: And Donald Trump, he is sticking to one of his favorite punching bags, Jeb Bush.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bush was 3. Bush? That's not good. How would you like to spend $59 million and you're 3? See this young guy over here? Stand up. Stand up. If I spent $59 million on him, he would be at least 5. OK?

MURRAY: All those millions of dollars coming straight to the homes of early state voters, as candidates blanket the airwaves with ads. A super PAC backing Rubio slamming Christie as too cozy with Barack Obama and his liberal principles.

NARRATOR: Chris Christie could well be Obama's favorite Republican governor. Why? Christie's record.

MURRAY: While Cruz tries to rally voters over the threat of illegal immigration.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I understand that when the mainstream media covers immigration, it doesn't often see it as an economic issue. But I can tell you, it is a very personal economic issue.

MURRAY: Vowing to secure the border.

CRUZ: If I'm elected president, we will triple the Border Patrol. We will build a wall that works.

MURRAY: And using some language that sounds awfully familiar to Trump.

TRUMP: He says we're going to build a wall. Now here's the good thing. He's a politician, so he wouldn't know where to start. You know, I know how to build a wall. OK? I know exactly how to build a wall. I know the footings, I know how deep they have to go, I know how high we can go with the pre-cast. I know everything.


MURRAY: Now, we might see an immigration battle brewing between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. BuzzFeed managed to catch Cruz on camera last night talking to voters, sounding like he's trying to go to the right of Trump, saying Trump would kick illegal immigrants out of the country, but allow some in. Cruz was telling voters last night that he would not allow any undocumented immigrants back in the country once he deports them, so an interesting feud could be starting up there -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right, Sara.

And, in fact, I'm going to ask the campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, about that in just a few minutes. Stay with us. Thank you so much.


We're going to turn now to Sunlen Serfaty, who is in Cherokee, Iowa, with Senator Ted Cruz, a candidate who led in Iowa in the last "Des Moines Register" poll there.

Sunlen, we have seen Cruz under attack from Trump and Rubio and Christie and on and on. How has he been responding?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He really does seem to be relishing in finding himself, Jake, as the newfound target of many of his opponents, proudly almost wearing it as a badge of honor on the campaign trail.

And he's using that to suggest that many of his opponents are panicking in the face of his momentum, especially here in Iowa. As he travels on this bus tour throughout this state, he's suggesting to his supporters, saying brace yourself, there will be an onslaught of even more attacks to come. Here's what he said at a campaign stop earlier today.


CRUZ: What's happening in Iowa right now is special. Yes, we have been through the silly season of the campaign, we have been through the media games, we have been through the attacks and the mudslinging. And this next month, it's going to get worse. You all are going to see millions and millions of dollars of TV ads, of mailers.

The nice thing about mailers is they make great kindling in your fireplace. They really do light up fast.


SERFATY: Now, Ted Cruz likes to make a big point of saying that he likes to stay above the fray, not really get involved in that mudslinging he referenced and he still refuses to directly and in public take on Donald Trump, but he and his campaign have been really honing their message, Jake, here in Iowa this week, going directly, much more so, after Senator Marco Rubio -- Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Sunlen Serfaty, thanks.

Let's go to the Rubio campaign now, where we will find CNN senior political reporter Manu Raju. He's in Cedar Rapids, where the senator from Florida is.

Manu, thanks for joining us. Rubio's campaign today releasing an ad on national security. That's obviously a topic he's been hammering home for months and hitting Ted Cruz on for weeks. What did he have to say today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What he's been saying is that, look, Ted Cruz voted for a surveillance law that gutted the National Security Agency's ability to collect bulk data.

He believes that's an effort, that's a way to distinguish himself from Ted Cruz on this national security issue. It's interesting. When Rubio talks to voters, he does not cite Ted Cruz by name, he does not cite Donald Trump by name. But when he's asked about his rivals, today, we got a chance to talk to him about Ted Cruz and Chris Christie, he has a different message when he talks to reporters. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.


RUBIO: I have a very different view on national security than Ted Cruz. He wants to -- he has voted for and supported a containment budget that would reduce national security. I think we need to rebuild the U.S. military. He's in favor of weakening our intelligence programs. I'm in favor of strengthening and expanding them. This country cannot afford a president that's not going to reverse the direction Barack Obama has taken our country.

We can't have another president that supports Common Core on gun control or expanding Obamacare. These are serious policy disputes and there's nothing in those ads that's inaccurate. It's the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Now, that last comment was a reference to the super PAC that -- Rubio's super PAC that released two ads criticizing Chris Christie, calling him President Obama's favorite Republican in New Hampshire.

It really shows, Jake, a two-front war that Rubio is mounting right now, one against Ted Cruz in Iowa, to prevent Cruz from running away with it here in this state and also against Chris Christie who is surging in New Hampshire and emerging as an alternative to Cruz and Trump. Rubio is trying to play in both lanes. We will see how it works, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, we will have a lot more about those ads, the air war coming up on the show. Manu Raju, thank you so much.

Joining me now, campaign manager for Donald Trump's presidential campaign Corey Lewandowski.

Corey, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.


TAPPER: Mr. Trump said yesterday on CNN that President Obama's executive actions on firearms will mean eventually -- quote -- "You won't bow able to get guns."

Now, the president unveiled 10 separate provisions that the White House says will hope to curb gun violence. How will any of them lead to gun confiscation or the wholesale shutting down of gun sales?

LEWANDOWSKI: Here's what he's doing, right?

This is typical of an administration that refuses to work with Congress to get bills passed. He's making an end-run around the Constitution, trying to go directly through executive order and restrict one of the basic fundamental principles of our country, which is the right to keep and bear arms.

And while everyone wants responsible gun ownership, what the president refuses to do is to work in a bipartisan fashion to get a piece of legislation done. He's basically a lame-duck administration at this point. He's using the power of the executive branch to go around the will of the people and the will of Congress to try and do something that is probably borderline illegal.

TAPPER: But you will concede the point that what the president has proposed does not mean -- quote -- "You won't be able to get guns"?


LEWANDOWSKI: No, I don't concede that, because what the president is proposing is if a father wants to give a gun to his son or another family member, they're going to have to go through a background check all of a sudden?

This is insanity. Right? This is a time-honored tradition since the founding of our Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms. And that should not be infringed any more so than any other provision of the Constitution. And the president, if he wanted to do so, he should do so in a way which allows public input and allow the members of Congress to weigh in on this and then have the courts decide if it's actually constitutional. I don't think it is.

TAPPER: But that's not -- the father-son thing you said, that's not what the president is specifically proposing.

Just to get into the weeds a little bit, what he said is, he would require those individuals who make a living selling guns to register and get licenses and do background checks, whether they sell them at gun shows or on the Internet or wherever. That wouldn't affect a father-son thing, scenario you just described.

LEWANDOWSKI: What does making a living mean? Does that mean I sell one gun a year? Does it mean I sell 10 guns a year? Tell me what making a living means. People make a living a whole bunch of different ways.

Again, it's the ambiguity that the president wants to make an end-run around the Constitution, around the elected officials in this country to enforce his own agenda which clearly the American people do not want. He's had seven long years to try and get something done on this, and he's been an utter failure on this issue.

So now, as a lame-duck president, basically, he's going to go and try and do something through executive order which I believe the courts are going to rule unconstitutional.

TAPPER: Corey, let's move on. Senator Ted Cruz said that he, like Donald Trump, your boss, favors deporting all undocumented immigrants, but where Donald Trump would allow some back, some citizens, some undocumented citizens back into the United States, Ted Cruz would not. That's Ted Cruz's words. Take a listen to Ted Cruz yesterday in Iowa.


QUESTION: Both you and Donald Trump are really strong on immigration, but do you support deporting all illegal immigrants? Are you going to say the same?

CRUZ: Absolutely, yes. We should enforce the law. And, in fact, look, there's a difference. He's advocated allowing folks to come back in and become citizens. I oppose that.


TAPPER: So Ted Cruz is pitching himself to voters as tougher on illegal immigration than Donald Trump.

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, with all due respect to Senator Cruz, I think we know that since Mr. Trump made his announcement in June that he was going to run for president of the United States, this has been the defining issue of his campaign. If it wasn't for Mr. Trump, people wouldn't even be talking about

illegal immigration. He brought this up the day he announced. And what he has said from day one is that if we don't have a wall, we don't have a border, we don't have a country anymore.

We going to take the people who are here illegally, we want to deport them, and then they are going to come back into the country legally. He said very clearly that has been the case. Our country has been founded many times on legal immigration coming back in.

I find it very difficult to believe that Senator Cruz is not going to allow individuals to come back into this country legally.

TAPPER: So you're saying he's lying, he's misrepresenting his position?

LEWANDOWSKI: Well, I just think maybe he wants to make a clarification. If he's saying that he doesn't want to let people come into the country legally, that would be a different statement.

But I think what he is trying to allude to -- and he said this now, he's in favor of building a wall or a fence, again, things that Mr. Trump has been very clear about from the beginning as a builder, an executive. He can get those things done. I think what you find in politicians is, they are really good at talking and not very good at action.

TAPPER: Are you guys going to win Iowa?

LEWANDOWSKI: I think Mr. Trump not only will win Iowa, but he will go on to win New Hampshire. And then we will be honored if we have the privilege of being the Republican nominee.

TAPPER: Corey Lewandowski, thank you so much.


TAPPER: There is the ominous music and the slow-motion video, and, of course, the attacks. A bunch of new political ads flooding the airwaves, they're next.


[16:16:26] JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Staying with our politics lead now. Right now, you're watching me on your television, but give it a few minutes and you might be seeing one of these. It's the New Year, 2016. That means gone are the commercials telling you to rush to the stores and snap up last-minute Christmas gifts.

It is now the season of the political ad and it's already turned quite vicious.

Let's take a look at whose ads are working and whose are not with CNN senior political commentator and Barack Obama's ad guru, before that a Chicago scribe, a political reporter, David Axelrod.

David, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.


TAPPER: So, let's start with Donald Trump's first TV ad, political TV ad, not mistakes but political TV ad. He's putting $2 million behind this in early states, especially Iowa. Take a look.


AD NARRATOR: The politicians can pretend it's something else, but Donald Trump calls it radical Islamic terrorism. That's why he's calling for a temporary shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until we can figure out what's going on.


TAPPER: Now, a more traditional politician might have started with a bio telling about his business successes. He drove right to the most controversial things he had said, things people even already even knew, and doubled down.

AXELROD: Well, in a sense it's not what the normal politician would do, but we know he's not the normal politician. The last thing he needs is a bio ad because he's been a ubiquitous presence in our living rooms for the last six months and really for the last 15 years when you consider his television program.

So, Donald Trump doesn't need that and what he did was he went right to those hot button issues that have animated his candidacy, his very harsh position on immigration, his position on barring Muslims from the country. These have created arched eyebrows among the elite, but they have energized his base and he went right to it in this ad.

TAPPER: Smart politics you think?

AXELROD: Well, I think in terms of energizing his base, it's smart politics. I mean, the question with Trump has always been where is the ceiling? How much can he get out of that?

I think there is a concern in his camp that these people who come to his rallies and express support for him may not be motivated to vote. So I think this is a motivator for his base.

TAPPER: Interesting.

Senator Ted Cruz, who's leading in some polls in Iowa, he released two spots to kick off the New Year. One is a cookie cutter direct to camera. The other one spot lights illegal immigration in an interesting way. Take a look.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A bunch of people with journalism degrees were coming over and driving down the wages in the press, then we would see stories about the economic calamity that is befalling our nation.


TAPPER: Thousands of unwashed journalists and bankers and lawyers --

AXELROD: I think I saw you there, Jake? Wasn't that you coming across the water?

TAPPER: That was my body double -- all running across the border, really making a very interesting point about the way that the elites look at immigration versus the voters I guess he's going for.

AXELROD: Yes, I think there are two elements to this. One is it is a pushback on Trump. He doesn't want Trump to seize the initiative on these issues.

But I think it's also -- and this is also part of the Trump appeal. It is very much certifying himself as the anti-establishment candidate. He wants to go at those same voters who feel disdained by the elites and who are offended by political correctness and he's going right after them. So, this to me, this is running in New Hampshire.

[16:20:02] It's an effort to cut into Trump's support in New Hampshire where Cruz is behind.

TAPPER: And that ad also at one point shows a split screen with Cruz on one side and Marco Rubio on the other. I think it was from the CNN debate. That has to be intentional to use the side-by-side?

AXELROD: Without question. Look, one of the subtexts of what's going on now, this whole period is about who's doing what to whom and why. And Rubio and Cruz have a little battle going on the side. Rubio is trying to dislodge Cruz in Iowa and get some of his conservative voters in Iowa. Cruz is mindful of the fact that Rubio is a threat and they're going at each other. This was a subtle reminder that Marco Rubio had been a supporter of immigration reform before he wasn't.

TAPPER: And New Hampshire, of course, is where a lot of the war for the establishment lane to the nomination is playing out. Senator Rubio vying for that spot. Also Chris Christie, strong in New Hampshire right now.

Take a look at this ad. It's from a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio now airing in New Hampshire going after Christie.


AD NARRATOR: Chris Christie could well be Obama's favorite Republican governor. Why? Christie's record. He instituted an Internet sales tax, supported Common Core and liberal energy policies. Incredibly, Christie even backed Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.


TAPPER: It could be effective, I think.

AXELROD: I think it is an effective ad. But Christie should have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, this is a real threat to him. On the other hand, he was left for dead after the bridge scandal in New Jersey when people had thought he would be a strong contender. He's revived himself in New Hampshire and now he's a real threat to crowd out some of the establishment Republicans, including Marco Rubio, so he's taking incoming.

And the question is will those vulnerabilities that daunted people earlier come back and will Christie be deflated as a result of these ads.

TAPPER: Rubio also battling it out with Senator Ted Cruz. Take a listen to how a super PAC backing Cruz is going after Rubio.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know I have a debate but I've got to get this fantasy football thing right. Okay.


TAPPER: David, I'll be honest. I kind of scratched my head when I saw this one. Rubio just having a light moment for a fake ad he had done about fantasy football.

What's the point of this ad?

AXELROD: I think you have to put it in context, Jake. Rubio is going after Cruz. He's going after Cruz on the air and the super PACs are in Iowa and elsewhere on the issue of national security and calling Cruz weak on national security.

Cruz came back with an ad on national security, and the suggestion is that Rubio is too young and callow to be commander in chief, that Cruz is the serious guy who can be commander in chief. So, I view this as a response spot as much as an attack spot.

TAPPER: All right, David Axelrod, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.

AXELROD: Great to see you.

TAPPER: More on our politics lead right now.

Senator Bernie Sanders today delivering a fiery populist speech about reforming Wall Street. He billed it as a big policy address. He accused big banks of greed, fraud, dishonesty and arrogance. He suggested Hillary Clinton was the big banks establishment friend, to whom they have awarded generous speaking fees.

Meanwhile in Hillary Clinton's camp, one day after her husband, Bill, hit the campaign trail in New Hampshire, she is barnstorming Iowa and that is where we find CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny with her in Sioux City. Jeff, has Secretary Clinton reacted to Bernie Sanders' speech today?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake, she has not reacted directly. She's just arrived here at Orpheum Theater in Sioux City, just a few moments ago and is taking the stage. But earlier today, she did not respond to Sanders at all.

And it's something she's not done throughout the course of her campaigning here. If you listen to some of her speeches at her events here, you might think that she's already in the general election.

But Bernie Sanders will have something to say about that. He delivered a very strong speech in New York, like you said. It's touching some of those strains that are really coursing through this Democratic electorate here, some of these populist strains.

And he called her out directly. He said she's too close to Wall Street.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Secretary Clinton says we just need to impose a few more fees and regulations on the financial industry. I disagree.


The culture of fraud and corruption on Wall Street. Under my administration, Wall Street CEOs will no longer receive a get out of jail free card.


[16:25:08] Not only will big banks not be too big to fail, but big- time bankers will not be too big to jail.


ZELENY: Now, that is a message that resonates with Democrats here in New Hampshire as well as in New Hampshire -- as well as in Iowa, excuse me. I mean, they really are liking what Bernie Sanders has to say.

But, Jake, the real question is what does Senator Sanders do after that? The Clinton campaign is trying to play the long game here. She's trying to convince people that she is the best Republican -- she's the best Democrat to defeat a Republican. In fact, she says bluntly, I'm your last line of defense against a Republican winning the White House.

But, of course, Iowa voters will have the final say in this in just 27 days here at the Iowa caucuses -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny in Sioux City, thank you so much.

Coming up, those armed protesters in Oregon vowing to use their guns if needed. So why isn't law enforcement doing anything to stop them?

But first, an emotional plea from the president as he unveils his new efforts to curtail gun violence.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.



TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Topping our national lead today, President Obama, flanked by families who have lost loved ones to gun violence unveiled his plans today for executive actions for further restrictions on the sale of firearms. Common sense steps, the president called them, saying they will save lives.

Republicans are blasting the plan, calling it an abuse of presidential authority.